Midweek Mini Reviews #15


Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (Translator), Mai Ohno (Illustrator)

Moshi Moshi was my first Banana Yoshimoto novel, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Similar to several other well-known Japanese writers, there is an element of magical realism to the story. However, in this case, it is extremely subtle and takes the form of a not quite a ghost story since the “ghost” of the protagonist’s recently father haunts the pages of the book and remains a significant “presence” despite not actually being present. Yoshimoto’s writing is incredibly minimalist and cool, yet she manages to provide some fascinating commentary on the traditional gender roles and expectations in Japan today. Furthermore, she does an excellent job of capturing the grief and the process of trying to move on when someone you love dies in a remarkably traumatic manner. In addition, it was refreshing to see an accurate portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship where both are now grown yet neither are completely dependent on the other. But what I loved the most about Moshi Moshi, was the setting of the novel. Set in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa, the book made me want to visit the area and check out the restaurants for myself. The only issue I truly had with Moshi Moshi was the romantic development and conclusion in the book as it was a bit unsettling and awkward. Nevertheless, Moshi Moshi is a soothing read in spite of its weirdness.

Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss by Jann Arden

Jann Arden’s latest book, Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss touches upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Having worked with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, I was looking forward to this memoir of caring for elderly parents who have dementia. Told in dated journal entries interspersed with personal photos and recipes, the Canadian singer-songwriter brings readers into the daily realities of her life as a caregiver to a parent who has dementia. At times, the book feels almost too real however that’s the beauty of it. Arden’s candor about what it’s really like for the families of those with dementia makes Feeding My Mother resonates so much more for those whose loved ones also have dementia. The design of the book is also beautiful and soothing, and I loved the gorgeous photos included in the book. I also liked the theme of food in the book, and will definitely be attempting to make some of the recipes in the book like the Four-Cheese Mac. An absolutely heartbreaking yet warm, and comforting read.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

 

Book Review | Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley

Authour:
Sarah Raughley
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 21st 2017
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
While I wasn’t too impressed with Fate of Flames, despite my initial excitement for it, I was intrigued enough to want to pick up the next book in Sarah Raughley’s Effigies series.

Like Fate of Flames, Siege of Shadows took a bit of time to hook me in. However, what I liked about this book was just how action packed it was. Since the majority of Fate of Flames was used to set up the world building, and mysteries and mythology of the Effigies there was more room in Siege of Shadows to focus on the relationships. Now that all four girls have come together and forced to work as a team it definitely brings out the more interesting dynamics. I also loved that we become more acquainted with the girls’ families, especially Maia’s uncle who proves himself quite useful to their cause. Of course there’s a bit of romance here and while I could have done without it, I did feel that there was a proper amount of build up especially from the previous book that the romance was all but inevitable.

As always, I love the Canadian and Toronto setting in the Effigies books! I also appreciate the diversity when it comes to the girls. Both the Canadian setting and the diversity is something that’s not often seen in YA novels, especially ones in the fantasy genre so it was definitely refreshing. Siege of Shadows has definitely upped the stakes for the Effigies and I loved how action packed it was. Also that ENDING!! Now I even more hooked and cannot wait to see where the series goes next, although I do hope that the “deaths” of all but one (for obvious reasons) in Siege of Shadows actually stick as they were incredibly emotional and powerful and it would be a cop-out if those particular characters survived.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Authour:
Rachel Joyce
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 7th 2017
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I loved Rachel Joyce’s The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, as devastating, heartbreaking as it was and while I haven’t read any of her other books something about The Music Shop tempted me into picking it up. And fortunately I was given an advance copy shortly after hearing about it at the Penguin Random House Fall Preview.

Set in the 1980s, the book focuses on Frank the owner of a music shop who stubbornly refuses to get with the times and stock CDs (choosing instead to continue to own deal with vinyls). Among the cast of characters are his assistant  and his fellow neighbours who own various shops/businesses along the same old street and neighbourhood that has seen better days. I loved that this novel was inspired by the author’s real life meeting with a music shop whose owner was able to find the musical “cure” for her husband’s insomnia. This magical quality of being able to “know” what music a person needs to hear which is an ability that her protagonist, Frank also shares.

If I were honest The Music Shop started off a bit slow for me as I didn’t care about any of the characters. However, before long I found that I had been unknowingly drawn deep within the world and characters of the book. This may have been a result of the beautiful, whimsical prose. Or perhaps it was the fact that over time we get enough glimpses into the past of each of the characters helping us to understand why they are the way they are in addition to why people care about Frank a great deal.

While some may say that The Music Shop is an overly sentimental read, I loved that I was left with a warm feeling when I was finished with the book. It is a definite must read for music lovers and for people who are looking for an uplifting read that is within the along the same veins as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin or even Katarina Blvald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend as it’s also about the power of the arts, and how when ordinary people get together and work together they can make the extraordinary happen whether it’s just for one person or for far more people than they could have ever anticipated.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #10


The Key to Everything by Paula Stokes

I love novels that feature travel in them, however I can be rather picky when it comes to the ones I actually end up liking. Fortunately, I rather enjoyed Paula Stokes’ The Key to Everything. Since The Key to Everything is categorized as “New Adult” this made the characters even more relatable to me since they are closer to my age than the teens in YA novels are. I also loved the fact that Oakland and Morgan are Psychology graduates as that’s what I studied during my undergraduate as well. The whole joke about Oakland and Morgan analyzing the boys (because they’re studying psychology) has been said to me on numerous occasions as well when I went abroad as a student. And while it was a bit frustrating to see how Oakland behaved at times, I did appreciate the positive female friendships (there’s not much “drama” between the girls) and I was glad that Morgan was there to talk some sense in Oakland when she went too far. The Key to Everything is a great read that is sure to inspire some serious wanderlust, but more than that I love how it portrays the unexpected friendships and relationships that can form when you take the risk and put yourself out there. And while it’s not always the case, it’s was nice to see that the bonds the girls form during their trip end up lasting when they return to the “real world”. Slightly predictable yet also unique this was one book I loved throughout.

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa De La Cruz’s Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe has made many changes to the classic novel. The Bennets’ are now brothers instead of sisters, Bingley is a gay actor, and Darcy is an independent, modern woman who had to make her own fortune after she was “disowned” by her parents. What I didn’t like about this retelling was how Darcy was made out to be a selfish, snobby and stuck up person by almost everyone. As readers we get to see the story from Darcy’s point of view, but even from her actions while she’s far from perfect she truly isn’t that horrible or even judgmental of a person compared to some of the other characters. Which is why I felt her “change” was a bit excessive since we didn’t get to see how she previously treated her assistant and it’s not as if she abused Millie. I was glad when her best friend, Bingley finally assured her that she wasn’t the awful person that everyone made her out to be just because she was the only one of them to leave and make it on her own. As for the character of “Luke Bennet” (this version’s “Elizabeth Bennet”), I wish we got to know him more because his character came off as kind of bland. Other than that Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a sweet spin on the Pride and Prejudice story and would make for a nice quick holiday read. And if you’d rather watch the movie, then you’re in luck as Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe is in the process of becoming a Hallmark movie!

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

 

 

Fall Books Preview 2017

Fall marks the return of school, and the return of people coming back to work from their summer vacation. But book lovers may also know it as the prime “book season”, when many great releases are out, serval literary festivals are happening and the major book awards are given. This month I had the opportunity to attend two different fall book previews each with amazing author guests, and  so instead of doing a full event recap for each event I thought I’d highlight a few of the titles from both that I’m looking forward to.

Penguin Random House

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (Out Now)

This one is one that I’ve actually read before the preview. It’s about a young woman who as an intern has an affair with her married, a congressman. Told from various points of views including the woman, her mother and the congressman’s wife this book unexpectedly became one of my favourites for it’s incredibly female empowering message. A review of this book will be up on the blog some time next week.

Smitten Kitchen: Every Day Triumphant & Unfussy New Favourites by Deb Perelman (October 24, 2017)

I don’t often cook or bake, but when I do I tend to visit food blogs for inspiration. I stumbled upon the Smitten Kitchen blog last year when I was looking for recipes for my Christmas cookie swap with my friends. I love the simplistic blog layout, gorgeous photos and the easy to follow recipes. It’s been more than four years since the last Smitten Kitchen book and based on the previews, this one promises the usual drool worthy food photos and family friendly, accessible recipes. For those of you interested, Deb Perelman will be coming to Canada for a signing at Chapters Bayview on October 26!

Unqualified by Anna Faris (October 24, 2017)

This one is rather interesting seeing as Anna Faris and her husband, Chris Pratt have just announced that they’re separating. Chris is still confirmed to be doing the foreword to the book as announced earlier. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but after reading an excerpt of her book where she talks about how its importance of friendships especially female friendships outside of your romantic relationships, I found her writing to be relatable and interesting so I’ll definitely be picking this one up. Unqualified has been suggested as being a must read if you’re a fan of Faris’ podcast or even if you enjoy funny, female memoirs.

Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean (October 31, 2017)

I grew up with CBC radio, and Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe show was one of the staples of my Canadian childhood. Sadly with his passing earlier this year, 2017 will be the first year without a Vinyl Cafe Christmas special. This collection includes some previously recorded stories as well as some new ones, so I’m definitely excited for it as it would make for some perfect Christmas reading.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (November 7, 2017)

I adored Rachel Joyce’s The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and after hearing abut The Music Shop, I’m eagerly anticipating this one as well. Inspired by a real life event, and taking place in the 1980s and featuring a record store where the owner has a “gift” for finding music that people need at a certain point in their life. Described as quirky and heartwarming and recommended for fans of Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans this one is definitely on my must read list this fall. (I managed to get an ARC of this one, so stay tuned for my review of it on the blog)

HarperCollins (YA)

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Out Now)

I haven’t read anything by Jennifer L. Armentrout yet, but the tagline for this book “how can you move on if tomorrow isn’t guaranteed” has me intrigued. Also I looked up the synopsis of this one online and it sounds like it would be an interesting contemporary YA novel with the added bonus of a swoon-worthy book boyfriend! This one was recommended for fans of All the Bright Places as well as 99 Days.

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake (September 19th)

I quite enjoyed Three Dark Crowns and am looking forward to more action in the sequel! This series is about a set of triplets who must fight to the death in order to become the next queen! Recommended for fans of complex, and messy sibling relationships and readers who love the fantasy genre.

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West (December 26th)

So this one was my most anticipated titles out all the ones that were presented! I love a good contemporary YA novel and am a huge fan of the friends to lovers trope. Plus I love reading books were characters have their own bucket lists and are trying to check things off their list. This is mostly because I’ve always wanted to make a bucket list but could never really commit to doing one so its fun for me to live vicariously through others even book characters.

So what are you guys looking forward to this fall? Let me know in the comments below!